This is the second installment of four special features honoring the 2017 Florida GrowerSM Citrus Achievement Award winner Ed Pines, Owner of EIP Citrus in Lake Wales.
How does growing citrus under protective screen (CUPS) help with food safety requirements?
Pines: We grow the citrus under very strict protocols in CUPS. We have sanitized equipment and procedures, not only for food safety, but also to reduce the chance of pests entering the structure. We exclude outside equipment and contractors. The structure also excludes wildlife like birds, deer, and hogs, which is important for food safety. Retailers like Publix and Walmart are extremely interested in food safety and traceability. And, for consumers, it is becoming more and more important that they can be sure the produce they are buying was grown in an environmentally sustainable and safe way. We can achieve all this with CUPS.
How does a CUPS system allow growers to simplify citrus production in Florida?
Pines: If you look at our fertilizer program, we do a lot of tissue and soil sampling. Based on what the samples tell us, we are fertigating trees once per week. Under our structure, we plant the trees in the ground so they can pick up the minerals from the soil and give us that taste Florida citrus is famous for. We also can go back to manipulating the bloom. We are going to fertilize trees for the best fruit quality and yield. Under cover, we can cut off fertilizer and water to stress the tree to force an optimal and uniform bloom like we did before HLB. Growing citrus outside with HLB, we are feeding the trees all year, and it has trees blooming all the time.
Special thanks to Arysta LifeScience for sponsoring the Citrus Achievement Award.